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Steve Wozniak

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Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak recently spoke at the Entel Summit in Chile where he was asked about everything from the Megaupload scandal to Microsoft's new Surface Tablet.

Wozniak is known for trying non-Apple products, and he's not shy about criticizing the company he helped start.

Wozniak's assessment of the Surface tablet? He says it's as if Steve Jobs came back reincarnated at Microsoft to develop a beautiful device.

Skip to 2:30 to hear Woz's thoughts on Microsoft Surface, Windows Phone, and Google Glass. We found this video on iDB:

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I don’t know if Highlight, Glancee, Banjo, or any one of those other startups you’re now officially sick to death of hearing about are going to make it, but I know that for the first time in a long time, we’re starting to move in the right direction in terms of mobile innovation. And no, I don’t mean we need more people-stalking apps, I mean we need more passive use of our mobile phones.

Less life lived looking down means more life actually lived.

The trend that strikes me here as being important is not necessarily “ambient location” or even “people finders” – that’s just all we’re capable of today. The real end game is engineering serendipity.

Each of the new contenders, oddly, has decided to go after the same vertical: people tracking. Perhaps this is the more easy and obvious market to first attack, given the apps’ abilities to run on top of existing social structures like Facebook or Foursquare. But arranging serendipitous encounters isn’t always a function of who you know, it should also be a function of who you want to know. Or who you should want to know, even if you don’t realize you should want to know them. That’s a bigger challenge than any of the new socializing apps can address.

Consider this, instead, a giant alpha test in preparation of taking that next step.

To move forward, the metrics these startups should be obsessed with should not just be how many users signed up, how many downloads they have, or how many pings they sent out, but how many real connections between people are actually being made. This is the Holy Grail for engineering serendipitous people discovery: alerting users immediately that somebody is nearby, but also making sure that’s a connection the person actually wanted to make. (It’s too bad all smartphones don’t have a nifty proximity sensor in them that can detect when you’re rapidly closing the distance between you and a fellow app user, for example. That would indicate a real connection! There are ways around this, but they’re far more complex than tapping into a provided sensor like the GPS).

Case in point of what a poor serendipitous experience feels like: one of the top apps alerts me that Steve Wozniak is at the airport, and he’s even in my terminal! He’s having a bite at a nearby restaurant. I rush to the other side of the terminal (which was a hell of a lot bigger than I thought), and scope out the restaurant, but no Woz. I scope out the nearby gates, still no Woz. What happened? A little manual people-stalking of my own and I find his flight took off over an hour ago. Fail, fail, fail, fail. (True story, sadly.)

A good app wouldn’t have even mentioned he was there. A good app would wait until it could say, Steve Wozniak is at the airport…and HE’S RIGHT BEHIND YOU!

So yes, all these apps still have a way to go before they even work correctly at their primary function.

While I know that it’s one step at a time, I worry that the market will see these apps as tools that do only one thing – merely alerting us to nearby people of interest – and will later give up on them when the trendiness wears off. That concerns me because we’ll then lose sight of other, bigger challenges companies operating in this space could one day solve. Challenges that take time. Not months, but years: engineering serendipity is not just about the who, but also the what, where, how and why.

A little history: a couple of years ago, Google’s then CEO, now Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt spoke of a world where our phones alerted us to nearby shops and deals and discounts as we walked down the street, all personalized to our own interests. Serendipitous discovery of the world around us.

Now forgive me for saying so, but a world where Google knows what I want to do before I do it, gives me a chill. Can’t someone else build this first, please? And build it on top of data that comes from everywhere, not just one big Google-owned database?

Apps could start by telling you who’s nearby, then slowly grow, until they could alert you about all sorts of things, and do so just as spontaneously.

One company already doing this, to some extent, is Foursquare. With its Radar feature, Foursquare is branching out from check-ins to become a tool for exploring by suggesting nearby places and alerting you to nearby friends. In terms of engineering discovery of the world, not just people, it’s already ahead of the trendy background location apps. As CEO Dennis Crowley explained, “what we have been doing with Radar is finding a way for people to use the app really without having to actually use it.” BINGO. But this is all such a new game; anyone can still win.

Engineering discovery is a complicated one to solve. For example, it’s a combination of knowing not just where you say you like to shop, but where you’ve actually shopped; not just where you say you like to dine, but where you actually dine. It also needs to know what sort of activities you would want to attend (Concerts? Games? Family friendly outdoor festivals? Dog shows? Plays?), then ping you accordingly. It needs to tell you of a concert only when there are still tickets left. It needs to know personal details like your shoe size, shirt size, dress size, and then check the in-store inventory levels before it ever bothers you about a nearby sale. And so on. It needs intelligence. Otherwise, the damn thing will be way too annoying.

And yes, some of this may not even be possible yet. But it will be, so plan ahead.

Oh, and here’s another tricky part: for any app to be able to truly be capable of serendipitous discovery, it would also have to surprise you from time to time with something that’s just outside your typical interests, but where historical, aggregate data from a wide user base indicates that hey, you just might like this, too.

So how would any app be able to know all these things? Well, APIs, for starters. Many web companies provide them, but apps tend to build on top of only the social three (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare).

How interesting would it be for apps to build on top of your preferred food-sharing and wine-tasting apps, your travel logs, your Amazon purchases, your credit card statements, your daily deal buys, your past check-ins, your Eventbrite ticket purchases, your Meetup groups, your Kindle e-book collection, your favorite shops at Fab and Etsy, etc., etc.? Oh, and all those your friends like too, of course?

Scenario: That guy browsing cookbooks at the bookstore knows your friend Julie and is currently reading the Steve Jobs bio (he’s got it on his Kindle, actually). PING!

Scenario: When you were in N.Y., you went to a restaurant your friend Joe recommended and loved it. This local restaurant is owned by the same folks and your friend Jim ate the ribs here two weeks ago and thought they were crazy good. PING!

Scenario: That little black dress that’s been sitting in your Amazon cart for 2 days looks a lot like the one this store is selling. And it’s half off. And they have your size in stock. PING!

Does any of that sound crazy? Then you’re not dreaming hard enough yet.

Or maybe it just sounds terrifying. Well, sorry (old fart?), but the machines are coming and they want to get to know you better.

Unfortunately, not all the data to build a (creepy) understanding of you and your behavior is available via API just yet, but by the time anyone could get around to expanding into all these verticals, that may change.

To be clear, the end result is not a scenario where every store you walk by blasts you with a geo-targeted deal, just one store does, and the result is incredibly, almost disturbingly, relevant. The apps don’t tell you about every possible dinner recommendation, only if the restaurant you’re considering now is any good. They don’t tell you about every person you’re somehow connected to nearby, only the ones you really want to know.

Or in other words: serendipity means you don’t have to manually launch apps all the time to know what’s going on. The apps launch you.

They don’t constantly ping you, and bother you with every little thing. Every time the phone buzzes, it would feel random, but would be meaningful and important to address.

Looking at what we have now, well, let’s just say we’re far, far away from that vision. But in the people trackers, we see the first baby steps.

That’s why they’re interesting.

And, who knows, at the end of the day, maybe such a thing won’t even be an app, but an extension of the handset itself. Maybe that’s what Siri and its VPA brethren will become. A smarter Siri who doesn’t just wake when you need something, but who, like a real-life assistant, would tap you on your shoulder and whisper, Pssst….Did you know?

Image credit: Flickr user ktoine

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Long ago I read iWoz, about the life of Steve Wozniak, but I had never had the chance to read any book about Steve Jobs. Last December I bought the official biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson and I loved how it is written, it is addictive!

I was especially interested in what happened during the famous Steve Jobs trip to India. It turns out that during his two years in college, he spent most of his time reading about eastern philosophy and religions and talking about them with his friend Daniel Kottke. When he became 19 years old he grew tired of college and started a technical job at ATARI where he barely spent some months. Then he decided to travel to India with Daniel Kottke in search of their “spiritual leaders”.

They were unable to find any “spiritual leader” that could captivate or enlighten them; the truth is they spent months travelling around in India without any destination in mind. The most interesting event was when an Hindu monk approached Steve Jobs with a razor and without any warning shaved his head.

What did you and Steve take back from India that stayed with you?
It seems in retrospect that we spent a lot of time on endless long hot crowded bus rides from Delhi to Uttar Pradesh … From a Daniel Kottke interview

steve jobs

When he returned, he came back to work at ATARI until he was able to sell the first Apple I computers with Wozniak. Five years later Apple would IPO making the 300 employees of Apple multimillionaires. During those years, apart from working, Steve Jobs started to practice Zen meditation at the San Francisco Zen Center; there he got to know the monk Kobun Chino Otogawa, who would become his mentor and friend during the rest of his life. Steve Jobs was said to be one the disciples that spent most hours meditating and in occasions he took several free days to go to Tassajara (the first Zen temple in United States) to sit down in front of a wall and meditate during weeks. Steve enjoyed the idea of using his mind to inspect his mind. He used introspection to change the way his mind worked, something known in psychology as metacognition.

Kobun Chino Otogawa, born in Kyoto, spent the first 30 years of his life in Japan, three of them in the main temple of the Sōtō Zen sect. At the end of the 60s he moved to United States with the mission to have a better understanding of Zen in the Western world. Besides Zen meditation, the specialties of Kobun were writing haiku poems and shodo caligraphy. We all know that Steve Jobs was a fan of caligraphy, for him it was reallly important that the fonts on computer screens were beautiful.

Buddhist monk Kobun Chino Otogawa was the spiritual mentor of Steve Jobs as well as his close friend during more than 20 years.

Kobun Chino Otogawa met Steve Jobs for the first time when he had just come back from his trip to India. Kobun Chino Otogawa found in Steve Jobs an outstanding disciple and Steve found in him a mentor to admire. Their relationship lasted for more than 20 years until Kobun Chino Otogawa died in 2002. Before founding Apple with Markkula and Wozniak, Steve Jobs had been considering what to do with the rest of his life, one of the options that he liked the most was to dedicate himself to the Zen exclusively. In a key moment in his life, Kobun Chino Otogawa advised Steve to do the opposite, he told him to follow his hearth, he told him that “He would find the ZEN in his life dedicating himself with passion to what he liked the most”, he told him that “He could still follow an spiritual life at the same time that he managed a business”. Steve was convinced and started the adventure that would take him to revolutionize several industries (computing, telephony, music…).

Steve Jobs meditating
Steve Jobs meditating.

Kobun Chino Otogawa was also present in another key moment of Steve Jobs life; he was in charge of celebrating the wedding ceremony of Steve Jobs and Laurene Powell according to the Sōtō Zen ritual. Kobun was like a father to Steve; during the NeXT year Steve offered him a job but Kobun just accepted to occupy an “Advisor” role. Kobun Chino Otogawa was the “Spiritual Advisor” of the company until it was acquired by Apple.

Kobun Chino Otogawa happily clapping after marrying Steve and Laurene.

The Zen was an essential tool for Steve Jobs for designing Apple products. A basic rule for Steve Jobs was to always simplify as much as possible, eliminating any element that was not strictly necessary. The iPod, whose simple, beautiful and intuitive design supposed an authentic revolution when it was released, was the first Apple product that I bought. At the moment I am the owner of around 15 Apple products. What I like the most about Apple products is that, as a whole, their simplicity and ease of use allows me to be able to be more creative and productive when using them.

The iPod shows us, through its simplicity, how much Steve Jobs appreciated the Zen.

Steve met Kobun Chino Otogawa for the first time at the end of the 70s but he didn’t travel to Japan until the beginning of the 80s. He had to go to Japan to look for the most appropriate floppy disk drive for the first Macintosh. In that trip he met for the first time Aiko Morita, the founder of Sony and could try exclusively the first prototypes of the Walkman, a device that impressed Steve Jobs. Another thing that captivated Steve Jobs were Sony factories (which afterwards he emulated when building Apple factories). Steve Jobs admired Aiko Morita but in many ocasions he criticized the unrefined designs of Sony products. The first Macintosh was one of the first computers to include a 3.5” floppy disk drive.

Besides doing business, Steve Jobs had the chance to travel around Japan visiting Kyoto and Soto Zen Eiheiji, the temple where Kobun Chino Otogawa had been living before moving to United States. Steve Jobs came back to Japan several times during the rest of his life, most of the visits were business trip but he almost always had time to escape to Kyoto, his favourite Japanese city:

Steve Jobs visiting The Temple of the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto

Steve Jobs always stayed in the Hotel Okura and loved the sushi of the restaurant on the lower floor. The Hotel Okura appears in the novel 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, it is the hotel where Aomame goes to visit the leader to offer him massage services.

summer random shots
Entrance to the Hotel Okura, where Steve Jobs liked to stay when he was visiting the land of the Zen.

Kobun Chino Otogawa, Sony’s Aiko Morita, the Zen and Japan were a big influence in Steve Jobs life. Another Japanese person that Steve Jobs admired was Issey Miyake, a Japanese designer who seeks elegance through simplicity, and who became quite close to Steve Jobs and eventually would become the designer of the famous black turtleneck sweater that Steve wore almost daily during the last years of his life.

Spiritual life, products with a simple but revolutionary design, Zen, Japan, simplicity, Buddhism, intuition, vision, attention to detail… but at the same time it turns out that Steve Jobs had really bad manners even with friends, as he was vindictive, treacherous, narcissistic, etc. It looks like Steve Jobs just chose the Buddhist values he liked better and forgot that Buddhism is based on empathy and compassion. I would really like to know what was the sincere opinion that Kobun Chino Otogawa had about him, most likely he liked him just as he was, with his defects and strengths that brought him to create what is today the largest company in the world by market capitalization.

“Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” – Steve Jobs


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AuMatar writes "I've been a professional programmer for 10 years. The startup I work for was recently bought, and while I was offered a full-time job, I opted to accept only a six-month contract. At my most recent job, I was lead developer for a platform that shipped tens of millions of units, leading a team that spanned up to three geographical areas I've done everything from maintenance to brand new apps. About the only thing I haven't done is been lead architect on a large system. What else is there to look for in the next job so it won't just feel like the same challenges all over again? I'm not interested in starting my own company, so I'm looking for suggestions assuming I'll be working for someone else."

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As the source is somewhat less than airtight, you should probably take the following with the biggest grain of salt you can get your hands on — but on the off chance there’s some truth to it, this rumor is too wild not to repeat. A new report claims that George Clooney and Noah Wyle are vying for the lead role in the upcoming Steve Jobs biopic, which is being developed at Sony based on Walter Isaacson‘s bestselling biography. More details after the jump.

The story comes from the UK tabloid The Sun (via Cult of Mac), which reports that the former ER co-stars are competing against each other to play the late Apple co-founder. There probably aren’t many times I’d vote for Wyle over Clooney, but in this case Wyle actually seems like the better choice. For one thing, he’s already played Jobs once, in 1999′s Pirates of Silicon Valley. (Joey Slotnick also starred, as Steve Wozniak, while Anthony Michael Hall played Bill Gates.) For another, while I’m usually in favor of casting Clooney in just about anything, the suave leading man seems like an odd fit for Jobs’ charismatic but prickly demeanor.

Of course, one very likely outcome is that it’ll turn out this entire report is BS and it’ll turn out that neither actor was ever seriously considered for the role. That the studio would be eyeing Clooney seems somewhat believable, if only because the biopic is bound to be big and Clooney’s the kind of huge movie star they might want on their top-tier team. But I’d be very surprised if the powers that be tapped Wyle — who’s doing just fine, but is hardly the first guy you turn to when you’re loking for A-list talent — to reprise his Pirates of Silicon Valley role. In any case, Sony’s scrambling to get the project together quickly, so expect to hear more casting rumors flying around in the coming weeks. Who do you think would be a good fit to play the tech legend?

Just for kicks, here’s a video of Wyle doing his best Jobs at the 1999 Macworld expo:

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bigsexyjoe writes "I am a somewhat experienced software developer who is pretty much an office drone. I used to enjoy writing code. I even enjoyed writing routine code before it became routine. But now I just come in day in and day out. I work for manipulative jerks. I don't care about the product I create. I don't enjoy coding anymore. I'm not great at interviewing. I don't have an impressive resume. I stick in more advanced stuff into my code when I can, but that is always on the sly. So my question is how do I get back the enjoyment I used to have writing code?"

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